Interviews

LiveCom Alliance: Digitisation, emotionalisation and sustainability are main trends

Maarten Schram, head and founder of LiveCom Alliance ‑ European Institute for Live Communication, shares with Event Point International some of the work that is being done by the Institute.

He also identifies some of the main conclusions of the most recent survey conducted by the Alliance among event agencies. And of course we talked about the “new normal” for events companies, due to covid‑19.

Can you share with us some of the history of LiveCom Alliance? How did it start? And how do you see it evolving?

Directly from the start as Managing Director of the Dutch association, my aim was to cross borders and look outside our little country and relatively small and crowded market. Therefore, I joined Bea World Festival (named European Best Event Awards at that time) as a jury member and soon after also as member of the advisory board. In that setting, I met my colleagues from associations all over Europe. And I was inspired by the insights and best practices we could share, but also struck by the fact that there was no proper connection. So, long story short, I founded LiveCom Alliance with the aim to unite, learn and inspire. After three years, I defined a roadmap for the upcoming years and decided to establish LiveCom Alliance as the independent European Institute for Live Communication. Currently connecting nine European event associations (Portugal, Austria, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, France), affecting 750 agencies all over Europe. For the upcoming years, I expect more pan‑European associations to join LiveCom Alliance, representing other countries and markets and participating in our European Industry Survey as the most important benefit.

You perform a European Industry Survey since 2016. What are the main difficulties in doing this work?

Directly from the start my vision was, in order to be relevant and gain recognition, that we should do market research. There was no study on a pan‑European scale. Due to the fact we had relatively limited means in time and budget, we started by gathering all the available data we could find. Benchmarking these data was our biggest challenge in the first three years. The result was a ‘snapshot’ of our industry. This was the situation in 2016, 2017 and 2018. However, the position as an institute asked for more, a thorough study. Thanks to the help of our German member FAMAB and our partner BOE, we were able to conduct a full study by the renowned German RIFEL Insitutut. The biggest challenge in the most recent survey was to get the response of the national members of our participating associations.

Is it hard to get data from Portugal? Or in general?

Honestly, it was challenging to get data from the Apecate members. So, hopefully this year it will be easier and smoother. Now, they have seen the value of the outcome. And thanks to Apecate for its effort!

What are the main conclusions from your latest survey?

Overall, we see positive figures, however, due to the cooling down of European and Global economy, we also defined a slight downward trend in budget expectations for 2020. Furthermore, our yearly European Industry Survey shows interesting differences in budget and number of events if you compare Central Europe and the more Southern region of Europe. Same for costs, salaries and freelancer rates, for example. In addition to this, the main lesson for me would be that, despite the world is getting smaller and boundaries are fainting, significant differences in culture, communication and style are remaining. So we need to define, understand and respect them. In our industry, the co‑creation process is crucial and we should be able to work in a most sustainable way together when crossing those borders. Finally, I would like to address that facts and numbers are highly valuable, but then again events are no commodities. Live communication is an artisan‑industry and all about creativity and craftsmanship.

What are the main trends that you have identified from the survey?

Digitisation, Emotionalisation and Sustainability. We live in a digital era. And therefore we need authentic encounters and experiences ‘live’. Digitisation is an ongoing evolution over the past several years already and helped our event medium from ‘low reach & high costs’ into the position of events as a spinning wheel of a campaign. Creating and sharing content, increasing reach and lowering costs. However, we do need to understand these media, technics, innovations and adapt our skills accordingly. Emotionalisation is obviously closely connected to the above mentioned trend. We need emotions and we are longing for real and authentic moments and experiences. Sustainability may be something we should not define as a trend, but as a given fact, a crucial driver we are aware of and react and adapt accordingly. Lowering our event‑footprint is something we are working on. Especially in the field of consumer events and festivals we see incredible innovations which enable us to operate in a more sustainable way. And sustainability could also being translated into the field of attracting and retaining talent for our industry. Create guidance on the way we work, pitch guidelines and so forth. Creating a more sustainable playing field in general is something close to my heart and the embedded in the goals of LiveCom Alliance.

LiveCom Alliance also produces some guidelines to the industry. What are the main topics that LiveCom can tackle on a European level?

Yes indeed, in 2017 we published the first pan‑European code of ethics and in 2018 we issued the first pan‑European pitch guidelines. Shortly we will evaluate this topic, by gathering all relevant pitch guidelines, codes and charters and make them available for our members to learn. The pitching process is a very demanding and sometimes even disrupting topic in our industry (the impact of pitching is also one of the important and revealing outcome in our European Survey). Furthermore, we are keen on law and regulatory topics such as Tour Operating Margin Scheme.

From your experience handling with all sorts of associations and markets across Europe, do you think that the ways events are done are very different? Is there a local approach to live communication?

First of all our ‑ already mentioned ‑ yearly European Industry Survey shows differences in budget and number of events if you compare Central Europe and the more Southern region of Europe. And, however, this is more country specific and personal as well, there is a difference in creativity, innovation and the effectiveness of the work. Finally, we see slightly different markets, as some of them are more leisure and tourism dominated, while others are mainly about business events and exhibition. Again, the European Industry Survey shows interesting insights on this!

What are the next steps for LiveCom Alliance?

Besides the expected growth, we aim to extend our European Industry Survey, offering our members a national deep dive of the results next year (instead of only a region approach). Furthermore, we work hard to establish our position as independent authority in live communication, including a connection with Brussels. A new website in order to facilitate our members and the industry is also something coming up soon!

What’s the feedback that you’ve been having about the impact of covid‑19 across Europe?

Obviously, the impact of covid‑19 is disastrous. Directly in March LiveCom Alliance started an inventory on government measures and association initiatives among our members. The government measures in general are more or less comparable all over Europe. However, of course with slight differences in the various countries. Associations are inventive and working full force to service and support their members and their national industry in general. Proud to see this happening. Meanwhile we are all preparing for the restart phase, handling safety and security measures and protocols imposed by governments and national safety institutes. Currently we are initiating the LiveCom Alliance Restart Sessions, a serie of interviews with spoke persons of the member associations about the way they prepare for the restart of our industry. In order to inform and inspire each other on this delicate and urgent topic.

How do you see the agencies adapt to this “new world” in terms of events?

Our DNA is unique; inventive, creative, decisive. So, I see a lot of innovate new concepts and initiatives. The business is partly converted in to digital business. However, it’s obviously a challenging era. Agencies all over Europe are hit hard by this crisis. Struggling with their costs, team and lack of (new) business. Lot of (in some cases all of them) projects are postponed or cancelled. Again, as mentioned before, they are also preparing and anticipating on the new reality dealing with all safety measures in order to restart the business as soon as possible. Digital is here to stay, we know. So agencies are in case needed, adapting to the combination of hybride, digital and live events.

 

Cláudia Coutinho de Sousa

Tags: LiveCom Alliance, Events

02-09-2020